Fighters for Peace (FFP) is the only organisation in Lebanon uniting former combatants of the civil war from different political, religious and social backgrounds. It was formally established in 2014 to promote peacebuilding and dialogue among Lebanese communities.
Unlike others who are still willing to fight in the many small scale conflicts erupting in Lebanon, these former combatants work to 'recruit' others from parties not represented in the group, helping young Lebanese avoid the path of taking up arms. All of these former combatants have undergone a deep process of inner struggle, followed by reflected and transformation, leading to the conclusion that violence, and ultimately war, results only in personal loss and destruction. They underwent a long path of reflected, re-elaboration of life and re-gaining a new identity, from fighters in war to fighters for peace.
Every now and again, these ex-combatants, men and women, share their personal experiences with each other. They are always astonished to re-discover that even though they belonged to rival parties, each and every one of them experienced fear, indoctrination, hatred, dehumanization of others, then trauma and introspection that led to change. Some take a long time to change, but for others it happened all of a sudden. Some became active in NGOs, others pursued their PhDs in Philosophy and Peace Studies or are involved in political activities.
FFP have two psychotherapists in their team. The former combatants take part in workshops in the framework of 'biography work'. This is a method mainly practiced in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. It is not psychotherapy, yet it allows individuals and groups to explore their biographies. It is intended to support people who have suffered ruptures in their lives.
Fighters for Peace took part in the Lebanese uprising of October 17th, 2019, warning of the dangers of a new war, holding discussions with youth angry with the sectarian system and looking into the past for a better future.
Programmes and activities
The former combatants involved in FFP became agents of change and peacebuilding, reaching out to other stakeholders of society such as filmmakers, activists, educators and journalists. Fighters for Peace involves ex-combatants from all major Lebanese political parties and religious groups and becomes a 'new family' to those who left their militias. Everyone dreams of expanding this family by winning over the hearts and minds of fellow ex-combatants to engage them in reconciliation and transitional justice efforts.
- Young people are a prime target. The aim is to pass to them the experience of wars, the lessons learnt and stories of personal drastic changes, so that they in turn learn to listen to each other, defying inherited misconceptions and stereotypes. Dialogue sessions are a core activity as well as specialized workshops in conflict transformation techniques. Between 2014 - 2019, FFP held hundred sessions and workshops in schools, universities, clubs, women's groups and municipalities. To convey the message strongly, usually two persons from formerly opposing parties work together. Additional activities with the youth include theatre plays, playback theatre, improvised interactive expressive plays, exhibitions, book signings and readings.
- The second target group are former combatants and recent fighters. Fighters for Peace provides a new home for this target group and hence supports the former combatants' disintegration from former militias and supports reintegration into civil life. FFP also works with Palestinians, living in Lebanon or coming from the occupied Palestinian territories. The Palestinian camps were once the ground of fierce battles with Christian, Druze and Shiite militias. In fact, the FFP "family" includes a former Palestinian combatant. FFP goes into conflict areas and works with the ones who were directly involved in the conflict, such as Jabal Mohsen and Bab al Tabbaneh (Tripoli, in North Lebanon). Oral history testimonies of ex-combatants are regularly published on FFP's website www.fightersforpeace.org
- During the war, many fighters fought against the Syrian army who had military and political influence in Lebanon for long years. FFP extended a hand of friendship to Syrian refugees, Syrian civil society activists and NGOs leaders planning for the post war era. Dialogue sessions were very emotional and intense, as it is hard for people who are still in the middle of war to hear from war veterans that clashes only lead to self destruction and loss. In summer 2017, FFP's former combatants traveled to Germany to talk to Syrian refugees there.
- The fate of thousands of disappeared during the war remains unknown, and their families still wait for them, or any news of their fate. FFP organized discussions with the families and works closely with them to share any glimpse of information and encourage everyone knowing anything to come forward.
- One of FFP's founding members shared his experience in a book, now published in French and Arabic, to give the youth of his country a vivid testimony on the ugliness of war so they don't fall into that trap.
- FFP also regularly produces documentaries that deal with the memory of the Lebanese civil war, organizes theater plays and exhibitions.
- The ex-fighters share expertise with counterparts in other countries such as Northern Ireland, the Balkans and other regions where a civil conflict had taken place and they reach out to current fighters in Syria, Iraq and Libya. They also participate in international conferences about interfaith dialogue.
FFP believes in the role of gender when working in preventing and countering violent extremism and has worked with Syrian women refugees to transform them into peace makers. It has reached out to around 12,000 people between 2014 and 2017. Its projects are supported by UNDP, Norwegian Embassy in Beirut, German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, British Council, Canadian Embassy Beirut and the French organization L'Atelier.